AFTER a grim day at Blundell Park on Saturday, it’s back to the bright lights of the FA Cup for Newport County AFC tonight and it could be another special occasion at Rodney Parade.

Victory over Middlesbrough in this evening’s fourth-round replay would take County’s cup windfall up to a staggering £1.2m and secure a mouth-watering home clash with Premier League champions Manchester City.

The stakes could hardly be higher and hopefully we will see the Exiles side that beat Leicester City and drew at Boro, rather than the one that was held by Port Vale last week and thumped at Grimsby Town on Saturday.

Michael Flynn’s men, who also beat Leeds United and drew with Tottenham Hotspur in last year’s competition, don’t usually have a problem in raising their game when they really need to.

And the manager is confident that will be the case again tonight.

“I’m glad it’s a big game, because I don’t think I’ll have to do much to get them back on it,” he said. “They’ll be up for the occasion.

“And, regardless of the outcome of this game, the full focus then will 100 per cent be on the league because we need to start addressing our away form.”

Saturday’s defeat was County’s seventh successive loss on the road in League Two and after the match Flynn had to defend his decision to rest several key men for tonight’s tie.

It’s a worrying run that has seen the Exiles drop to 14th ion the table and seen their play-off hopes take a potentially fatal hit and Flynn finds it hard to explain.

“We almost won four in a row on the road when we missed a penalty at Forest Green [in October], and now we can’t buy a win – but we went and drew at Middlesbrough,” he said.

“It’s crazy. You wonder why my hair is going grey! It’s so frustrating because all the preparation is right and everything we do is right. It’s just one of those things.

“If you look at the seven games we’ve lost on the bounce away from home in the league, we should have got at least a draw in five of them.

“That’s painful because we could have five more points and if we win our game in hand we’re two points off the play-offs.

“That’s very frustrating for me. I gave a few people a chance on Saturday and they did nothing to warrant a place in the team.

“I learned a lot on Saturday and it makes my team selection a lot easier.

“There were one or two who, if they’d done well on Saturday, would have played against Middlesbrough. But they didn’t, so it’s easy.”

A win tonight would mean Saturday’s selection was fully vindicated, but it was clear from the stalemate against Vale that the team looked tired and in need of freshening up.

The three deadline day signings, who cannot play any part tonight, will hopefully breathe new life into the squad and help them climb the table over the next few months.

Another massive cup game against Pep Guardiola’s City would probably put paid to a play-off push, but the financial boost would be massive for the club.

And it would be another big feather in Flynn’s cap. The recent league form is clearly a concern, but club’s progression since he took over is clear to see.

And tonight’s opposite number – fellow Pill boy Tony Pulis – is in no doubt the Exiles boss can follow in his footsteps and manage at a higher level.

South Wales Argus:

“Michael was a tenacious player who got everything out of his ability through his attitude and commitment and he has got to do the same as a manager," Pulis told BBC Sport this week.

“Hopefully Michael is successful enough to take Newport up and if bigger jobs come along, they come along. He will have to decide then if it's the time to move on or not.

"Hopefully he will do it in a similar way to me.

“I am pleased that we can say there is someone else from that area who has come through and managed in league football.

"I think Michael has done a fantastic job. He has got a good team and there is an identity there, which is always good.

"You can see they have been coached, they have been worked with and some effort has gone into it.

"He is going to have his ups and downs. As managers you have to take the rough with the smooth.

"But he has got broad enough shoulders and is a strong enough character to know you have to learn from good times and bad times."

County have had plenty of bad times in recent memory so we should all enjoy nights like tonight and savour the prospect, however unlikely, of global superstars like Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva strutting their stuff at Rodney Parade.